Reps. Maida Townsend, Ann Pugh and John Killacky and Martin LaLonde

Between Reps. Maida Townsend, Ann Pugh and John Killacky who do not plan to run for reelection, the city will be losing 44 years of legislating experience. Rep. Martin LaLonde has announced his candidacy and looks forward to leading the new crew of freshmen reps tossing their hats in the ring.

Only one sitting House representative will run to keep his seat in South Burlington. The other three, with 44 years of experience legislating between them, are passing the baton.

A few hopefuls have already stepped up to fill the holes left by Reps. Ann Pugh, John Killacky and Maida Townsend, meaning most of the South Burlington state delegation will be the new kids in the House.

Last one standing

Rep. Martin LaLonde, who’s been in the state legislature for eight years, serving on the House Committee on Judiciary, as chair of the committee on judicial rules, and now part of majority leadership, hopes to keep his seat to finish up some “unfinished business.”

“There are some issues that I have been working on for six, eight years, that are getting pretty darn close,” he said, pointing to his work to restructure the criminal code — he thinks that will take one more biennium at least — efforts to improve gun safety, work on climate change initiatives like the clean heat standard, and to reform state pensions and Act 250.

Last week, the governor vetoed the clean heat standard bill, H.715, arguing that the financial impact to Vermonters and to the state, from incentives and subsidies, are unclear.

“I think it’s important for some continuity that I am coming back. That’s one of the reasons that I decided to come back when I was trying to decide if I was going to run again,” he said. “It’s fun, it’s really interesting. It will be a whole bunch of new people, which is really enlightening.”

Rep. Ann Pugh

Pugh, one of the most senior members of the House and perhaps one of the only representatives with a streak of blue hair, announced she was not running for reelection in her column for The Other Paper last week.

“It has been one of the greatest privileges in my life to bring the voices of residents of South Burlington to Montpelier, to bring their interests and concerns into the legislative discussions,” she said.

When she first ran for election, Pugh said she “hadn’t a clue” what she was getting herself into. She wasn’t a political scientist, but a social worker with a passion. Pugh lost her first election but returned the next year and won — then proceeded to be reelected every term for another 30 years.

“I’m curious. I’m a social worker. I believe in possibility. My roots are in social and economic justice, and the importance of and the possibility of change and including all voices. More personally, I wanted to make a difference,” Pugh said.

With 30 years in the state legislature, serving as chair of the House Committee on Human Services, vice chair of the Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversight Committee and as a member of the Health Reform Oversight Committee, Pugh helped to usher in historic change for Vermonters. She was in the House when it legalized civil unions for same sex couples and eventually same sex marriage, reformed the welfare system, added mental health support, improved care for older Vermonters, improved palliative and hospice care, passed the death with dignity bill — the list goes on, she said.

One of the most notable bills she’s championed, and perhaps most relevant at this moment as the U.S. Supreme Court seems poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, is her work bringing Proposition 5 to the House floor where it passed earlier this year.

Last fall, as she was gearing up for the session, she said she felt “incredibly honored” for her role in passing the bill, penned by fellow Chittenden County Sen. Ginny Lyons, which enshrines reproductive liberty into the Vermont Constitution. One notable piece of the legislation, Pugh pointed out, is that the amendment protects the right to personal reproductive autonomy, not just abortion.

Looking back on all her work in the Legislature, and what she’s proudest of, Pugh reflected on how she takes some of it for granted now — it feels so necessary and embedded into the fabric of Vermont.

“Some of these things I take for granted now. I want to say one of them is gay marriage. One of them is mental health parity,” she said. “We need to shore up and make sure that they don’t get rolled back.”

Last week, Pugh was honored with an award as a Democratic leader for her years of service and efforts to ensure Vermonters’ reproductive freedom.

“I just want to thank the voters of South Burlington for putting their confidence in me and us. Sending us back to the Statehouse for so many years. It’s huge. I have a huge debt of gratitude,” Pugh said.

Rep. Maida Townsend

Townsend, the petite spitfire of the House Committee on Appropriations and co-chair of the Government Accountability Committee, has announced she will not run for reelection to the seat she’s held for 10 years.

She is known for her diligence responding to residents, knocking on doors, going to Town Meeting Day polls every year to keep people informed and holding innumerous numbers in her head when allocating out the state budget. Not to mention, she’s a master figure skater and makes sure to hit the ice after legislating for the day.

“I absolutely still love the work. I still love the institution. I still have energy to spare. I love my people and relationships that have developed over the last 10 years. But by the time we get to election day in November I will be 78 years old — 78 years of age. I really believe that it’s time that I stepped aside,” Townsend said.

She’s most proud of her work to establish what we know today as search and rescue, to reform oversight and transparency with law enforcement, to increase access to the polls, and establishing the state ethics commission, which she believes “should have more teeth,” but was an “uphill battle” that she’s glad at least exists.

Rep. John Killacky

The third rep to step down from his seat will be Killacky, who worked as director of the Flynn Theatre before being elected to represent South Burlington four years ago.

He joked about feeling like “the new kid on the team,” but the other reps were quick to say that he lent a fresh set of eyes and rightfully questioned the institution itself, pushing against norms and for broad, systemic change.

“John is generally so gentlemanly and kind and thoughtful and caring, but there can be a real edge come out, which needs to come out and a fierceness when somebody’s rights have been trampled upon,” Townsend said.

For Killacky, who serves on the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs and the House Discrimination Prevention Panel, some of his proudest work has been to help pass the eugenics apology last year — an effort 10 years in the making — and to create the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine systemic discrimination throughout the state, among many other things.

“I think that that’s going to be a reset moment again for Vermont,” Killacky said, adding that he hopes their “holistic” approach will help gather more data on ways in which systems discriminate against Black, Indigenous and other Vermonters of color. Housing, for example, is something he’s particularly tuned into, and something he’s worked on during the pandemic, when at one point 2,000 people were homeless, he said.

“Because we’re not as diverse a state as others, sometimes the whiteness blinds people to this kind of discrimination. It’s not as apparent. But it’s just as deeply embedded here,” he said.

Who’s next?

South Burlington resident Emilie Krasnow announced Monday that she is running for Pugh’s vacant seat in Chittenden District 9.

Townsend said South Burlington resident Kate Nugent, a local justice of the peace and member of the South Burlington Board of Civil Authority, plans to run for her seat, and former South Burlington school board member Brian Minier is likely running for Killacky’s seat, the representative said.

No one has officially announced their candidacy for the new fifth House district, shared between South Burlington and Williston, which was allocated in the recent redistricting.

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